School has been in session for a while now, and maybe the bright sheen of newness – new teachers, new friends, new interests – has lost a little of its luster for your child. Now instead of being happy each day, your child is dragging his or her heels and naming every excuse in the book explaining why he or she can’t possibly go to school that day. So, as a parent, what do you do when your child hates school?
Don’t panic! Here are five tips I’ve seen work repeatedly in families and schools.
1. Be positive. Support your child in every way. Parents are the best cheerleaders, so don’t spare the high-fives, the smiles of approval, and the occasional small but regular rewards for persistent effort and well-earned successes. Your child wants nothing more than to please the important adults in his or her life.
2. Be involved. Stay connected with your child and with the folks at school. Make a daily conversation about school an important routine in your family. Don’t ask questions that can be answered in one word. “What made you laugh today?” is one of my favorite ice-breakers. “Why do all the kids seem to like Ms. Freesmile?” is another. Really listen to what he or she is saying to get a better handle on why he or she is currently unenthusiastic about school. If you think your child is having a problem inside the classroom, like he or she is being bullied or struggling with a particular subject, reach out to your child’s teacher. It’s easier than ever before with school websites, teachers’ pages, and email all at your disposal. Staying in contact and having an open dialogue with your child’s teacher will make it easier to address any concerns you may have. He or she can be your best ally as you get your child to stop hating school.
3. Be creative. There’s no reason why learning can’t be fun. Maybe your child is disinterested in school because he or she is feeling unchallenged. Use your child’s interests and friends to inject enjoyment into studying and homework time. Invite study buddies over before test times, so they can learn with and from each other. Sometimes study buddies can put complex ideas into kid-language. Invite children with wide ranges of talents – and don’t forget to serve treats!
4. Be a role model. This may be the most important. Children don’t always do what we say, but they sure do what we do. When your child sees adults reading for pleasure, getting excited to learn new things, sharing experiences we’ve just learned about, taking the occasional course at the local library, or being enthusiastic about a new interest, he or she quickly sees the power and joy of lifelong learning. Like any worthwhile investment, it’s long-term and worth the effort.
5. Be in it for the long haul. They’re kids, after all. Some days they’ll make you burst with pride. Other days you’ll want to leave the country. By yourself. There will be setbacks, hiccups, and glitches. Steel your spine, take deep breaths, count to ten, pick yourself up, love them for the scamps they can be, and march on.
Getting your child to not hate school – and learning – is not a one-time exercise. Rather, it’s a process, a way of life. And if we do it right, he or she will benefit from the blessing of coming from a family who values learning, a lifelong gift.